hacker emblem
Search | Tags | Photos | Flights | Gas Mileage | Log in

Bay to Breakers 2023

Started: 2023-06-05 20:23:08

Submitted: 2023-06-05 22:19:11

Visibility: World-readable

For the Bay to Breakers this year, I decided to get a hotel in Union Square the night before, so I didn't have to wake up quite as early to get to the race by 08:00 on Sunday morning.

On Saturday afternoon I parked at Daly City BART station, then took the train to Glen Park and transferred to a MUNI bus going past Glen Canyon to the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. (I think this was my first time on a MUNI bus since moving back to the Greater Bay Area three years ago, although I've taken MUNI metro since then.) I visited the special traveling Ansel Adams exhibit, featuring a bunch of his photography, plus other works of landscape photography in the American west from the past 150 years.

Music Concourse and the Skystar Wheel in the fog
Music Concourse and the Skystar Wheel in the fog

I ate supper at Ramenwell in the Mission, which I had marked on Google Maps as an interesting place to visit, though I can't actually remember when or why I marked it. They had a delicious mushroom ramen, though the "normal" spicy was in fact fairly spicy. After eating I walked to Dolores Park to look down on the city as night fell and the fog spilled over the hills to envelop the city, then headed back to my hotel to retire for the night before the race the next day.

My alarm woke me up at 07:00 on Sunday morning. (That was about the same time that the BART special service was scheduled to arrive at Embarcadero Station; had I wanted to take BART to the start I would have already been awake for hours.) Union Square was almost deserted early on a Sunday morning, but there were two distinct groups of people out and about on the sidewalks: professional-looking people dressed in business casual wearing conference lanyards for the American Psychiatric Association conference at Moscone, and Bay to Breakers runners in a variety of outfits and costumes ranging from normal runners to super heroes to elaborate custom costumes.

On Market Street I walked past a Silicon Valley Bank branch, and a bunch of First Republic branches. This seemed like an inauspicious sign of this year's banks that failed in social-media triggered bank runs after failing to account for rising interest rates. (I am currently employed by a stealth-mode early-stage startup, so I am moderately concerned about the health of the economy as we try to secure funding.) I walked to the entrance to my starting corral on Spear at Mission and joined the other runners waiting for the start. My starting group, corral B, was designated for runners self-selecting into an estimated pace of 8-9 minutes Here the runners were dressed for actual running, with only modest costumes. There were a couple of people walking around with no costume at all, which seemed like an especially cold choice in the overcast, 55°F morning next to the bay in Soma.

Runners line up on Howard Street
Runners line up on Howard Street

Like previous years, people brought corn tortillas to throw at the starting line like a Frisbee; then, as we started moving towards the starting line, the tortillas were discarded and trampled underfoot into a corn mash. As we advanced to the starting line I heard the earlier corrals start ahead of us, and soon it was our turn. After the starting countdown on the loudspeakers the crowd shuffled forward, gradually picking up speed as we approached and then crossed the starting line, between the new Park Tower at Transbay (one of the many new office towers in the city under a cloud of uncertainty in the current tech layoffs) and the old temporary transbay bus terminal.

I started my watch as I crossed the starting line, and picked up speed to run down Howard Street in Soma, with the bay behind me and the breakers 12 kilometers ahead of me. Many of the people in my starting corral were clearly not up to running anywhere near the estimated speed; I had to spend much of my time weaving around slower people just to get up to the point where I could run at all. I ran through the new high-rise towers in Soma towards the mid-rise numbered streets past Moscone conference center, where the psychiatrists attending their conference stood on the sky bridges above the street to watch the runners below.

Along the way I saw the best centipede of the race, a long Golden Gate Bridge set up with red rope draped between two towers (they looked like they were built from PVC pipe, but I didn't get a good look) connecting a dozen people.

Golden Gate Bridge centipede in Bay to Breakers
Golden Gate Bridge centipede in Bay to Breakers

(I briefly considered a costume inspired by Eurovision but I didn't think I could actually put together a costume that would work for me, and I wasn't sure that anyone would actually get the reference. Obvious candidates included Finland's entry "Cha Cha Cha" (which would have been fairly easy to pull off, I just needed puffy green arms) and Germany's entry "Blood and Glitter" (which would have been somewhat more difficult, with makeup and hair and a red latex bodysuit and wings, but would have been amazing).)

I ran through Soma and nipped across Market Street at Mid-Market, then turned west to head up Hayes Street to the infamous Hayes Hill. I tried to set an easy pace up the hill but barely made it half-way up (right to the point where I encountered runners dressed as salmon swimming the wrong way up the stream) before I had to walk up the rest of the way.

Somewhere along the route I saw a guy on the sidelines holding a small rubber tree in a plastic pot with a sign that said "Run with your potted plant" so I gave him a high-five as I passed.

Past Hayes Hill the course descended precipitously for a block (here I tried to catch my breath after ascending the hill) then jogged onto Fell Street, past the DMV, and onto the north side of the Panhandle. Someone on the sidelines had a score card comparing the number of naked men they had seen versus naked women. At this point in the race the score was 4-0.

We ran into Golden Gate Park, following JFK Drive along the north side of the park, past the Doggy Diner heads and the back of the de Young Museum. As we finally began our descent to the breakers, with two miles to the end of the race, I picked up my pace and managed to get a negative split on the last two miles. I pushed myself down the last stretch of MLK Drive and I pushed my pace I felt my legs fall into a new, faster, easier rhythm, like I was finally shifting into a higher gear. I sprinted around the final turn onto Great Highway and across the finish line, exhausted from the race but thrilled to have finished strong.

Jaeger at the Bay to Breakers finish
Jaeger at the Bay to Breakers finish

I picked up snacks at the finish expo and began to make my way back across town. I ended up heading to the north side of Golden Gate Park, trying to catch the #5 bus on Fulton Street towards Civic Center. This proved easier said than done; one bus drove past as I approached the stop, and the next bus was either 20 minutes away (according to the schedule on Google Maps) or delayed by 80 minutes (also according to Google Maps). But this seemed like the only good way to get across town: cross-town buses were few and far between on a Sunday morning, and it would probably take longer to walk to another line than it would to wait for the bus to arrive, assuming it were actually operating at something resembling a real schedule (which seemed dubious, given that the race had bisected the city's road system). But a #5 bus eventually arrived, within the time I had been expecting, and it was big enough to fit all of the runners waiting at the stop for the long ride back across the city. It took me almost as much time to take the bus back to Union Square as it did to run across the city myself.

By the time I made it to Union Square the sun had come out, and the city was beginning to wake up. I took a shower and dressed in my hotel (the other reason I wanted to stay in the city for the night), and headed to a very late breakfast at Caffe Central around the corner from my hotel. After breakfast I walked down Market Street to the Embarcadero again, through the Ferry Building and to the end of Pier 14, before catching BART back to Daly City to drive the rest of the way home.